Father Gerard Kelly, CM

St. Joseph, spiritual father

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

In my 23 years with Catholic Charities, a nearly universal goal of people I meet, whether it’s donors, board members, volunteers or clients, is the desire to be good role models for their children. 

Most people want to be the absolute best parents they can be. So it is fitting that, as we celebrate Father’s Day this month, we take a moment to reflect on our spiritual father, St. Joseph. 

On Dec. 8, 2020, the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pius IX declaring St. Joseph the patron of the universal church in 1870, Pope Francis declared the Year of St. Joseph through Dec. 8, 2021. What a blessing that Pope Francis calls our attention to St. Joseph at this moment in history when parents, and indeed all of us, are facing innumerable challenges.

This humble man, whose quiet servitude often goes unnoticed, shows us how ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact on salvation.  

As our Holy Father carefully lays out in his apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), St. Joseph faced great difficulties — physical danger, persecution, being forced to flee his homeland, poverty — yet he endured these challenges with unwavering faith in divine providence and what Pope Francis calls “creative courage.”

St. Joseph accepted the difficulties he faced — things he did not choose for himself — and he trusted in God’s plan so deeply that he worked hard to make every situation better. He was the ultimate caretaker and protector of Jesus and Mary, particularly when Jesus was an infant, a time when the Holy Family was most vulnerable.

Joseph showed them the “earthly” unconditional love and protection that Jesus went on to espouse in the Beatitudes, when he urged us to show great love for the poor and vulnerable: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).

During the pandemic, with so many lives and livelihoods lost, each of us has felt vulnerable, afraid and perhaps even hidden like Joseph. We are facing difficulties we did not choose.

Joseph reminds us to trust in God’s plan and face challenges with the same creative courage he displayed. And Joseph’s model of quiet servitude shows how we are to treat others who may be facing even greater difficulties than our own, offering help and protection to the most vulnerable among us. 

In this way, no matter how hidden we feel, each of us “ordinary” people has a critical role to play in salvation history. 

As we celebrate the life of St. Joseph on Father’s Day and throughout this year, I invite each of you to join in the mission of Catholic Charities, where we are witnessing the creative courage of thousands of fathers and mothers who are working hard to be the best parents they can be during these challenging times. 

Whether showing their children the importance of sharing their time and treasure as donors and volunteers, or seeking help to improve their families’ lives in one of our programs, Catholic Charities is a place where people from all walks of life rejoice in their shared humanity and make life better for one another. 




  • the voice of catholic charities